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Discussion 1 to Meditation 38
The Historical Evidence for Jesus Christ?
A Response to Meditation 38

by Reverend Mark Crane

A follow up by Mark Crane to this article is posted here.

To add to this discussion (or any other,) please use the Contact form. This discussion has been continued.

It is impossible to prove beyond doubt that Jesus Christ did exist. It is even harder if like you and me you are an agnostic (I am an ordained minister). Note that some parts of this text have been copied from people's accounts and books, for that is the only evidence of a man named Christ. Here is my argument for Christ, I write as a Christian although I am not and I could write a thesis equal to this against Jesus' existence. Here goes:

A doctor of Theology teaching at a University says:

Jesus was born, according to the modern calendar, in the year 7 BC, in a religious community near the Qumran plateau, 25 km. east of Jerusalem. His mother conceived him while she was engaged to be married, at a time when people in the community she lived in still considered her to he a virgin. As a result, some regarded her son as illegitimate. In later life, he married twice and fathered three children. Emerging as a religious leader, he was arrested for infringing the rules of Judaism. As punishment, he was sentenced to death, but survived a bungled execution. His loyal followers helped him to escape and he spent the rest of his life in hiding, meeting with friends and helping his associates to write documents that would spread his ideas. He was 70 when he died, possibly in France.

Further: She says that she employed the so-called pesher technique , used by the ancient Jews to explain dreams, to uncover the real story of Jesus. According to her theory, both the New Testament and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain two levels of meaning: one for uninitiated readers, and a real meaning that is accessible to those who have the key. Thiering, who claims to have deciphered the code, paints an unorthodox picture of Jesus, drawing conclusions about his life and death. She places Jesus in the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and makes him a member of the Essene sect. She also says that Jesus, after earning the wrath of the Jewish and Roman authorities, managed to survive crucifixion . Death on the cross, says Thiering, was usually a long and agonizing process. But in Jesus' case, Thiering says, a sympathizer gave him wine laced with poison. After drinking it, Jesus became unconscious and appeared to be dead. But in his tomb, friends used powerful purgatives to wash the poison from his body and the next day they helped Jesus from the tomb. After several years of travelling in the Middle East, he moved with other sect members to Rome. Earlier, she says, Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and they had three children before she divorced him and remarried.

Theology is theory not fact. However, if, there was not a God or in this case Jesus the living God, why would these techniques work? They are not Hallucinations (this is explained later in this article), no, no, no.

And further if there was not a historical Jesus then how would the Gospels have come about? Wether or not the gospels are accurate is irrelevant, it is not possible for all the books of the bible to have been written by different people in a time without E-mail and cars about the same man without some historical fact to it.


Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a member of a priestly family and who became a Pharisee at the age of 19, became the court historian for Emperor Vespasian. In the Antiquities, he wrote about many persons and events of first century Palestine. In chapter three of book XVIII Flavius describes Jesus as a doer of wonderful works.

Granted, not exactly solid fact, but if there was no actual man named Jesus then why would it be in royal records? If Jesus was a fictional character then surely it would have said ' The people do speak of a doer of wonderful works, but of his existence we are unsure'.

References to Jesus in the Jewish Talmud indicated that Jesus was "treated differently from others who led the people astray, for he was connected with royalty." These Talmud accounts were written long before the New Testament was assembled. They provide clear evidence that Jesus did live. The Talmud does not embrace Christ as a deity and would have no reason to sanction his existence. The Talmud also states that Jesus was 33 or 34 years old when he died.

Again not solid fact, but why would there be records in another religion of this man if he DID NOT EXIST?

At face value the Christian evidences appear to be overwhelming. Looking outside of the New Testament, many texts in apologetics will include a long list of names and documents that claim to confirm historically the existence of Jesus: Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny, Tacitus, Thallus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Lucian, Phlegon, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, and others.

Some of these names are church fathers writing in the second to fourth centuries and are therefore too late to be considered reliable first-century confirmation. Being church leaders, their objectivity is also questionable. These facts were not important to evangelists nor would they cause any red flags to raise in the minds of the average believer reading the average book of Christian "proofs."

However, the list does include some nonbelievers - Jewish and Roman writers who were likely not biased towards Christianity - so it would appear that there can be no question about the historical existence of Jesus. Who could possibly doubt it?

It is rarely if ever pointed out that none of these evidences date from the time of Jesus. Jesus supposedly lived sometime between 4 BC and 30 AD, but there is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime. This does not disprove his existence, but it certainly casts great doubt on the historicity of a man who was supposedly widely known to have made a great impact on the world. Someone should have noticed.

One of the writers who was alive during the time of Jesus was Philo Judaeus. John E. Remsburg, in The Christ, writes: "Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not."

There was a historian named Justus of Tiberius who was a native of Galilee, the homeland of Jesus. He wrote a history covering the time when Christ supposedly lived. This history is now lost, but a ninth-century Christian scholar named Photius had read it and wrote: "He [Justus] makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, of what things happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did." (Photius'
Bibliotheca, code 33)

The Resurrection

In considering the matter of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is important to show that each and every one of the present "theories" claiming that it did not happen is dealt with, in turn. Therefore, it is on this basis that I will show by the elimination of any other possibility, that the Resurrection not only occurred but that all known arguments against it are unfounded and can be rejected as invalid.

Any explanation of the resurrection MUST take into consideration the following features:

1. It must incorporate all known facts surrounding the resurrection event.

2. We cannot "whittle" the evidence into a presupposed mold. We must evaluate the evidence or events in context and within reason of logic - or - "could it have happened that way?"

In this vein, there are two major considerations - Christ's tomb was either occupied or it was empty.


A. Unknown Tomb

This theory was based, primarily, on the historical documentation that indicated that crucified victims were cast over a particular wall in Jerusalem and burned in a trash pit. This theory was difficult to refute -other than the Gospels - until 1968 when the grave of a crucified victim was located in a family tomb just outside of Jerusalem (Yohanan ben Ha'galgal). The other major failings of this is (1) even if the disciples and the women did not know where the grave, Joseph of Arimathea DID; (2) the Roman Guard knew where it was and (3) the women sat at the entombment and dressing of the body.

B. Wrong Tomb

This theory is a variation on the Unknown tomb theory in that the women went to the wrong tomb. The major proponent of this heresy is one Professor Lake. He concludes that the "gardener" told the women, "He is not here, but see the place where they laid Him." The complete text of what was said is recorded in the Gospel as "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.". Matthew clearly shows in 27:61 (Mark in 15:47 and Luke in 23:55) that the women had clearly noted the location of the tomb less than 72 hours before. The professor notes that this explanation provides a natural explanation for the rock not being at the opening. The professor picks and chooses his information, but the parts that he ignores clearly refutes his position. An additional thought is not as clearly refuting it, but have you buried a loved one and ever lost the location of that grave in your mind?

C. Legend Fantasy

This theory fails immediately when we read Paul's comments that there were over 500 eyewitnesses still alive to prove the resurrection. History proves the writings of the Gospels and the accounts of the resurrection to be no later than 56 A.D. The writings were directed to people that could have, easily, gone to the grave themselves and verified if the grave was empty. The FACT is that the accounts were NOT written many years later.

D. Spiritual Resurrection

Only In Luke 24:39, Jesus Christ, himself, demolishes this theory. Later on, Jesus even eats some fish. This, again, proves a body. Matthew tells how they grabbed the feet of Jesus. I do not believe that you can grab the feet of a spirit! This is a major precept of the Jehovah Witnesses.

E. Hallucinations

DEFINED: "wandering of the mind, idle talk, etc." but the American Psychiatric Association defines it as "a false sensory perception in the absence of an actual external stimulus." And elsewhere it is defined as "an apparent perception of an external object when no such object is present". It is also recognized by science that hallucinations occur only in certain people and are linked to the person's personal experiences. The fact that many diverse people saw Jesus and all concurred with their versions of that sighting negates this theory completely. An hallucination does not sit down with you, eat with you, allow certain persons to examine the wounds, or talk with certain individuals of a group.

Hallucinations are highly subjective and no two people have ever been found to experience the same hallucination - how then can 500 people do so?! Hallucinations recorded are within a specific time frame and under favorable conditions - usually the person having the hallucination had been concentrating on the object or desiring the object prior to the hallucination. These conditions are absent in the resurrection. No expectancy, fifteen different appearances, many different people, 500 at one time to one or two people. Hallucinations usually occur with regularity and this is not the case here. When the day of Pentecost came, no other reports or stories occurred as to having seen the risen Lord!

I wish to point out that NONE of the above theories uses the two "rules" of evidence spoken of at the beginning of this session.

If the tomb were EMPTY, then there are two additional possibilities. It was by either NATURAL causes or it was due to SUPERNATURAL causes.


A. Stolen by Disciples

This theory is the most common (especially in Jewish communities) possibility expressed. In fact, Matthew even records this theory, but did not take time to refute it as it was so false that he didn't feel the need to refute it. It is recorded that the Roman guard went to the high priest and were bribed to tell the stolen body story. This also refute the idea that it was Temple Guards that guarded the tomb - the high priest would not have needed to bribe his own guards. (Matthew 28:11-15)

Let's take the matter on logic. If the Roman guard had fallen asleep how could they have known that it was the disciples that took the body. If you have ever watched Perry Mason, you could well imagine an attorney getting this testimony in court! The other factor is to look at the possibility of the ENTIRE guard unit falling asleep. This SECURITY UNIT of the Roman army was the most devoted to duty because the failure to be on guard meant certain death if discovered! This unit was highly skilled in fighting and would have made mincemeat of the disciples had they attempted to steal the body. (Also look to Matthew 26:56 where he describes the courage of the disciples "all the disciples left him and fled"!!

The two ton boulder is another matter to contend with. The Greek shows that the stone was not just moved to the side but actually picked up and moved away from the tomb area! I cannot picture anyone group of men being able to move such a force without making enough noise to "wake the dead"! This problem of the stone is really a "roadblock" to any of the theories. The final feature of this theory is to consider the very character of the disciples.

History records that these men, because of some unexplained (secular world only) reason, became men of the highest and purest though and deeds. Their moral character and honor were NEVER questioned by anyone - even the very people who put them to death. The very idea that these men could conceive of such a lie in direct conflict with what Jesus had taught and to continue the lie EVEN TO THEIR OWN DEATHS is absurd.

This one factor is not recorded any where else in history. No other person has had the testimony of men such as the Apostles who never recanted their faith or their Lord. If this had been a lie, these "ordinary" men did not break under the most severe pressure.

I can only believe that ONLY a face to face confrontation with the Living Jesus could have given them the knowledge that a death on this Planet was only the door to be with the risen Lord! Finally, if the body had been stolen, how can you explain the manifestations of Christ to the many eye witnesses - including the 500?

B. Jesus didn't REALLY Die. He just appeared dead and then revived in the tomb, got up and left by himself.

This just isn't likely considering what Jesus endured. Let's look at this first. Jesus was subjected to SIX TRIALS, three Roman and three Jewish. The actuality of a man called Pontius Pilate was considered fable UNTIL 1961, when archaeologist in the city of Caesarea uncovered a large inscription which read, "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans" and proves that such a Roman Governor did exist. The trials were:

[1] Annas, the high priest

[2] Caiaphas

[3] the Sanhedrin

[4] Pilate

[5] Herod and

[6] Pilate.

History records that there were two Sanhedrin bodies. One consisted of 23 members and tried cases of capital punishment, another consisted of 71 members and was for trials of Heads of State, High Priest or matters of crimes against the Temple. The Sanhedrin of 23 was the most probable body that tried Jesus. Second, the very death by crucifixion was invented by the Persians who felt that the ground was consecrated to their Gods and a death on the ground would be against the gods; so they invented a method of death that would not defile the ground by placing the people on a stake and later a cross bar on a stake to lift them off the ground and allow the punishment of death to take place without defilement to the gods.

Alexander the Great utilized the crucifixion as a major deterrent force. The Romans felt the death was so degrading that a Roman citizen could not be crucified except by order of the Emperor and then this was usually after the person's citizenship was stripped from him. The Romans usually reserved the punishment for political cases. The very accusation against Christ was directed at political as you can read in Luke 23:2. The Romans added; However, another twist to the process of crucifixion. The added the "scourging" of the criminal. This consisted of a period of time that was set by the trial or could be set by the scourgers, themselves, of beating the accused with a form of brass knuckled fist and consisting of a minimum of six men. This usually left the facial features of the accused unrecognizable.

The next step of the scourging consisted of the whipping of the accused with a Flagrum. This whip had numerous leather thongs of various lengths and braided into each of the thongs were bits of metal and bone. One Dr. C.T. Davis has described the whipping with the flagrum in this manner: "The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across the accused's shoulder, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin, only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from the vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large deep bruises which are broken open by the subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the Centurion that the prisoner in near death, the beating is finally stopped". A historian of the third century, Eusebius writes "The sufferer's veins were laid bare and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure. After this ordeal, Christ had a crown of thorns jammed into his head. The blood from this act must have been severe. Jesus was then subjected to another beating with a rod! After all this, our Lord was then forced to carry His "patibulum" to His place of execution. At the place of execution, Christ was nailed to his cross. History was devoid of any proof that nails were used until the discovery in 1968 of another tomb that contained the remains of a person who had been nailed, both hands and feet, to a cross. History then came to the defense of the Gospels and once, again, the Bible is proven correct.

So the theory that Jesus didn't really die on the cross neglects to consider these main points:

[1] Jesus went through SIX TRIALS (3 Roman and 3 Jewish in less than 24 hours),

[2] Had been scourged by the Romans.

[3] Jesus was too weak to carry His own patibulum.

[4] Spikes had been driven through His hands and feet.

[5] The Roman guard thrust his spear into Jesus's side and "blood and water came out".

[6] Four Roman executioners confirmed the death of Jesus - could experienced executioners - four of them - really be wrong?

[7] The women placed the 100 pounds of spices and wrap around Jesus and encased His body with the gummy substance that the spices would have made which would have made breathing difficult if not impossible.

[8] the tomb was cold and damp (40 degrees was suggested based on similar temperatures read in such tombs). This would have reduced any circulation of Jesus even further.

[9] The two ton stone was lodged against the tomb opening. The stone was cut in such a manner to make a tight seal against the opening and was, most likely, sealed further. The need to eliminate the smell of decomposition was great!

[10] The Roman guard was posted outside the tomb.

[11] The tomb was sealed shut.

This theory would then have you believe that this Jesus was revived by the coolness, burst out of the burial wrappings, pushed the boulder AWAY from the tomb, fought off this highly trained Roman fighting guard unit and appeared to the Disciples as the Lord of Life with no after effects of such an ordeal. I, personally, would have to contend that this explanation is a miracle in itself! How could a man who had suffered these terrible punishments have been able to make His disciples believe that He was the Lord of Life and was victor over death? How could such an appearance have changed cowards into the most powerful force for God on earth as happened to EACH ONE of the disciples? The answer is SUCH AN APPEARANCE COULD NOT HAVE - ONLY THE RESURRECTION AS IT IS TOLD IN THE GOSPELS COULD ACCOUNT FOR SUCH A CHANGE.

C. Passover Plot

Hugh Schoenfield proposed a variation of the "swoon" theory in his book the PASSOVER PLOT. It is proposed in this book that Jesus had studied the scriptures and had structured His life in such a manner as to comply with the prophesies of the Messiah and convince the people that He was the Messiah. The conspirators consisted of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and a "young man".

Now the plot was to have Jesus administered a drug that would feign His death. This was based on the fact that the "bitter water" given to crucified victims usually contained a narcotic to allow the person to sleep. Now the plan was to have Joseph take the body to the tomb and revive Jesus. The plot was short circuited when the guard thrust his spear into the side of Jesus. Jesus was taken to the tomb and revived but only lived a short time. Joseph and the "young man" then disposed of the body and emptied the tomb. Now this "young man" was mistaken to be the risen Lord by a hysterical Mary and later the confused disciples also mistook the "young man" as Jesus. History does not record that Joseph or the "young man" ever corrected these mis-impressions. Mr. Schoenfield does what most proponents of "alternate possibilities" do - he selects what "evidence" he wants and negates or ignores or disputes any "evidence" he does not like. He adopts a completely arbitrary basis for acceptance of evidence and "no rules" is the only rule. In the circumstance of the Roman guard placed at the tomb, Schoenfield rejects this as it is only mentioned in Matthew and if only one writer comments on the matter then it can be rejected. However, the matter of the spear is a mainstay of Schoenfield's theory and it is only mentioned in John! The very idea that the change in the disciples and the conversion of so many people could be attributed to a case of mistaken identity is so absurd as to be rejected as the ramblings of a man who finds the matter "foolish".


A. Bodily Resurrection

The Historical and Gospel facts show that each and every one of the so- called Natural explanations are invalid and would not hold up in a court of law. The reverse, though, is clearly shown in that the resurrection is a provable, logical, historical and factual occurrence.

The mind of man that will not accept the fact that God the Creator of all things injected His presence into the course of Human History, will also accept illogical, unproven fantasies to prevent being face to face with the living God, Jesus Christ .

It is upon this evidence that I put it to you that Jesus Christ DID exist. Whether or not he performed the 'miracles' described within the bible is not my concern, but I feel that if there was not a man named Jesus then nothing whether fictional or not would have been recorded about him.

A follow up by Mark Crane to this article is posted here.